Can't figure this ride out. 2,000' less climbing than Mt Tam Double, though ride takes me much longer and always finish in the dark while I finish Mt Tam with plenty of daylight to spare. Well, as two months after Mt. Tam sunset is about 1 1/4 hours earlier. We also leave 1/2 hour later. Or, maybe it is because it isn't timed so no urgency, or that I am always injured (2005-dog bit, 2006-hit by car) a week before the ride. In any case what promised to be a big Diablo Cyclist party petered out, and only Don was going to ride it. (but 4-5 club members going to work the event, and Kitty would be on the ride-probably starting earlier and skipping rest stops.) As Don is our fastest long distance rider, and for once I was healthy going into this, I figured we could get in just before nightfall.
Ride is put on by the Quackcyclists, and while they don't do the (great "over the top" exuberance of the Santa Rosa Cycling Club for the Terrible Two, they do a great job in every other area of support catering to what long distance cyclists need.. I always quip that this ride is their apology for torturing us on the Devil Mountain Double with 50% more climbing.
Ride inexplicably was pushed back a week which worked out great. First it allowed me to do the Auburn Double Metric +16 miles two weeks ago. And last week, when this ride was supposed to have happened, we had a beautiful December day--cold and rain, whereas September in the Bay Area is supposed to be the nicest month of all.
Other things don't quite work out as planned. Was jazzed when I saw motel on the outskirts of Vacaville--for once I wasn't staying at a hobo dive. But with trailer trash arguing in the background I sat around for an hour while I had three different rooms in rapid succession--for the first room the lock didn't open, for the second it didn't shut. Then off to the "famous Vacaville Outlets" (home of white shoes on the cheap) where the only store I like, the Pearl Isumi shop, was gone. Then off to the park for checkin where one volunteer complained about my handwriting but otherwise lots of Quackcyclist Swag (reflect ankle band, water bottle. energy bar, gel flask--all things Planet Ultra would charge for, where I picked up some Quack shorts.) I'm always amazed how low key double check in's as opposed to the festive atmosphere at a Chico or Sierra Century (with 10x as many riders and some vendors.) Now running late because of the motel fiasco, I get to downtown Vacaville just when Ray's Bike Shop (saved my ride in 2006) is closing, and he Italian restaurant from 2 years back is gone. Back towards the outlets which is surrounded by strip mall after strip mall, but pleasantly surprised as they took the Nut Tree development (used to be the one oasis to eat on the way between San Francisco and Sacramento) and created a chain store mall, but with loads of sidewalks and laid out in a street grid so conducive to walking around. Same stores where I live (Brentwood-Antioch) where the most obvious feature is the giant parking lot between stores that makes walking between stores nearly impossible.
Weather promised to be in sunny in the mid 70's but we'd be through numerous mico climates. Great that the Quacks run drop bags back from rest stop #1 where we could ditch lights and some clothes and #2, where more clothes could go before the 20 mile gentle climb along Knoxville Road to Lower Lake. I mistakenly have described it a "fun climb."--this year it sucked. More on this later.
Not a mass start, and most riders start out by 5:00. Don/ I started at 5:30. In the past I've not been the greatest fan of mass starts but a nice way to get the excitement/ heart rate up. Now Don/ I starting off in complete darkness around Pena Adobe Park Lake, with no other cyclists in sight. Glad I brought heavy duty lights--though part of the beginning is through suburbia streetlights, most of the pre dawn route is along the highway service road or rural roads leading to Napa Valley with no lights at all. Unlike Davis Double that has workers waving the turns in the darkness--here you better spot the ground route markings. Luckily Don knows where we were going and he was hammering and passed about a half dozen riders --though we were passed by a racing couple. Don was doing all the work and I was holding on in the cold (50's) damp air that kills my breathing. First time knee warmers over knee wrap--tee shirt and vest and windbreaker, since February. Surprise-road that was rough last year has been repaved. We must be going fast--still dark where I double flatted after sunrise last year.
We're headed west--going over Mt George, which in past years I remember for the terrible, curvy descent. But what I've lost in climbing ability (gone from very good to good) Ive gained in downhill (OK, now poor but used to be utterly terrible) ability. I took Mt. George easily as breathing still f'd, but it was actually warm on top of the climb and at the downhill which I had fun on. We still hadn't seen many rides until we went past idiot cyclists #1--riding side by side and bsing on the downhill. I said "on your left" but they didn't move from their side by side position--Don went over the yellow line to pass but I wasn't having none of that--so I had to get a little louder with a stronger sense of urgency in my best "da Bronx."
The Napa Valley floor was foggy and colder--reported to be in the high 40's. Must have gone through the organic section of Napa, area smelled like wet cow shit. Pulled into rest stop #1--mile 36--17.9 mph, workers dressed for Siberia. Any thoughts of sending clothes back when on the top of Mt George would now wait. Don and I have similar rest stop body clocks--especially on an untimed double--we'd both be ready to leave in about 12-15 minutes.
Next segment was lots of fun. We continued North in the Napa Valley we here we saw hot air balloons as sky finally clear and sun was out. . Here I started sharing some work with Don, especially when someone would become a passenger on our two man and I would kick it into gear on a roller. At some point passed by the famous Lee Mitchell sag, and I wasn't going to let him off the hook--I started yelling "play some Doors." (Great guy and real helpful but the music he usually pipes out of his sag van usually could be improved upon.) He gets on the loudspeaker and lets us know that his music equipment is broken. No matter, I've been grabbing some live tunes off of You-Tube and then editing them for my MP3, the fast pace of this portion of the ride was perfect for the constant quick beat of a live version of Berlin's techno -"Sex" that I recently edited--and now kept racing though my head.
One Grizzly Peak Cyclist would be a passenger then attack on rollers, so when the rollers kicked up a notch Don/ I dropped him. (Rumored that Grizzly Peak doubles leader Marc starting at 6:00 so he wasn't around to watch over his disciples.) Then a long but shallow climb from Napa Valley East--now sunny and actually warm, and here is where Don and I passed loads of the early morning starters while just riding at an even pace and having fun.
We soon hit the top of Howell Mountain and White Cottage Road--part of the impetus to pass as many cyclists as possible was to go downhill on the curvy run in as small a group as possible. Tense and wound up last year (after hitting a car on a downhill the week before,) I enjoyed the downhill, and all to soon we were zig zagging East towards Lake Berryessa along a flat road that would have rollers increasing in duration along the way.
Don & I on start of beautiful Knoxville Road climb that turned from sunny & fun too windy, cold and painful Thanks to Ravi-also a doubles riders-who was taking photos just for a Second Harvest Food Donation.
First half of the climb up Knoxville Road--the first 10 miles--went real well. What's not to like, starts with a real scenic water crossing, a steady 3% grade, hardly any traffic. Only negative is the road surface isn't the greatest, but the rough road is usually just concentrated around the shallow culverts that run across the road each 1/2 mile.
But some things soon became apparent.
1-There was a slight headwind at the start which would disappear if we were momentarily sheltered but got increasingly strong as we climbed,
2-Though sunny out, and we're climbing a a nice clip, the headwind is from the North and it was getting cooler and cooler,
3-Hmmmm, my ankle feels weird---kind of like after I twisted it 2 weeks ago at the start of the time trial at Auburn. But it hadn't bugged me in two weeks, but now it was starting to hurt.
About half way up the Knoxville Climb gets steeper (maybe 5% instead of 3%), it was getting colder, and my left ankle did not want to turn the pedal so I was doing most of the work off my right leg. I was getting cold and usually I could up the pace to warm up but nothing doing today. After having passed scores of riders, now Don easily rode away from me, and others started to pass. I pulled off to put on vest--Don waiting for me at water stop after the tunnel. We caught up to Kitty, a B-P-B (sic) finisher who can put in more miles than almost anyone, while skipping most rest stops but not terribly fast on climbs and she started an hour before us. However, Don started riding away again and I couldn't go much faster than Kitty--who did start to detail all the food she was going to eat at lunch.. Luckily a few downhills started so I could get some relief while coasting ,and while wondering how I was going to do the oppressive (10% and long) Cobb Mountain climb after lunch while I could barely do Knoxville. Figured that they must have athletic tape so I'll get massage therapist to wrap my ankle and take some Advil.
Right before we get to lunch two clubmates come by in a Sag and yell some wise ass stuff but I'm in no mood to joke around. I know the person taking numbers at lunch--glad to see a friendly face--and her significant other also working the lunch stop and will put together some food for me. But all I want to do is have massage therapist look at ankle--which he does--says there is scar tissue building that he has to break up--and it is in one of three places the 3rd place might hurt. "AAAAAAAAH"--it did. Massage therapist said he loosened up the ankle but now it felt worse--I could barely walk as I stumbled over for some food. Oh yeah--ankle taping--he could do that but no one had a roll of athletic tape--but EVERYONE had a roll of duct tape. Spotted another sag driver/Quack organizer I had known for years--tape--oh yeah "duct tape." I didn't want to put duct tape on my skin--but I wanted to finish the ride--so I wrapped my ankle OUTSIDE my sock and took some Advil, and then ate a hearty lunch of a tostada shell before I stumbled back on the bike. As last year Don didn't seem in much of a hurry and was letting me set the rest stop pace.
On the bike I felt better but BIG PROBLEM at stop sign and then traffic light out of Lower Lake. I always clip in/ out with left (now bad) ankle--and at stop sign I couldn't and barely made it out before crashing down. So at stop light I made a conscious effort to clip out right--which involves leaning the bike a different way so you don't go crashing down to the ground (last time I clipped out right was appx 9 years ago when I first got clipless pedals--I clipped out right but leaned left--and quickly fell.) This right clip out was more successful than 9 years ago--but it also meant that I had to start, where you put down some torque, with my left foot once we got going--which didn't work out well. Luckily for the rest of the ride, as very few traffic controls, only had to clip out a half dozen times in 90 miles.
Right away we start on a gentle climb as a lead in to 10% Cobb Mountain. Right away we hear a womans's voice laughing as she passes "it's those Diablooooos"--it is Fresno Lori--great climber and Triple Crown Race winner from last year. I pick up the pace to ride at her pace but Don talks some sense into me and I drop off--which is just as well as I died on Cobb Mountain. It's a long climb and the first part is the steepest so I just put it in an easy gear and tried to spin but no matter how easy I couldn't turn the pedals with any force and Don again disappeared in the stratosphere. I finally got pissed at myself and jumped out of the saddle. A nice person who wasn't the fastest climber pulled alongside me and offered encouragement as I was struggling, she said something like "wow, you are climbing in a double" and then pulled ahead.
At that point I wondered what the hell was I doing--sitting and spinning wasn't protecting my ankle, I wasn't going anywhere, so I might as well try standing. A revelation--standing didn't hurt my ankle nearly as much--and though knee and quads protested that I would stand too much for the rest of the day--my ankle won out--and it turned into a recipe for success. Don took a little speed off on the climbs, and I'd stand right away as soon as a climb started to stay with him--take very short sitting breaks--and then pop up again .
Though we only had a small group--end of ride pasta meal was great--Don/I joined by Craig/ John from the rest stop, Todd, and in a little while Kitty. Quackcyclists give out nicely etched pint glasses. Go over and hunt for photos of Don/ I on Ravi's computer (doubles rider form Davis who took photos in excahnge for donation to food bank.) Ravi is a fixed gear track rider and he enthisatically urges me to try out the track--but at this moment I hate my bike. Besides hurting--I'm kind of disappointed--after Mt Tam and Auburn were such smooth rides and this turned out to be more difficult than I anticipated.. Additionally, this signaled the end of the 2007 doubles (and baseball) season.